A 17-year old student from Cagayan de Oro has been bestowed the Head of School Award from the Stanford University Online High School (Stanford OHS) based in California, USA.

Stanford Online High School is an independent school located at Stanford University for intellectually passionate students in grades 7–12. Founded in 2006 as a three-year high school, and subsequently expanded to include grades 7–9, Stanford OHS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Ikera “Kee” Olandesca

Ikera Olandesca was one of two students who merited the award out of 880 students enrolled in OHS.

Tomohiro Hoshi

According to Stanford OHS Head of School, Philosophy Core & Mathematics Instructor Tomohiro Hoshi, the award “acknowledges a student who has represented ‘OHS-ness’ in all relevant senses of what that can mean.”

Douglas Kerr, English instructor and Project Head of University-Level English Course Development, and one of the founding instructors of Stanford OHS, presented the award at the virtual Awards Ceremony held on June 6.

“[Olandesca is]… a great, great community leader,” Kerr said. “She brings people—students, staff and instructors—together. She puts us all into action, she puts us into motion.”

Douglas Kerr

“Not only is Kee (as she is better known in OHS) an accomplished poet, and an impressive writer academically, bold at picking through multiple perspectives and taking objections seriously; she is also a great community leader, and it is her purposive attitude, drive to learn new concepts and ability to connect easily with others, that truly makes her shine, and continues to inspire others,” he added.

“First and most importantly–I’m grateful for my family, who moved mountains to give me an extraordinary high school experience. attending a place like OHS was an unreachable dream for them, which they made a reality for me,” Kee said in a social media post.

Kee was accepted into Stanford OHS in 2017 when she was 13. She experienced online learning before the COVID-19 pandemic, working with schoolmates and teachers from outside the Philippines. 

“At OHS, I’m grateful for countless things: instructors who transformed the way I perceive and respond to the world; staff whose belief in me changed the way I perceive myself; schoolmates who constantly amazed me with their brilliance; and kindhearted, talented, supportive, inspiring, overall incredible friends I will always treasure. I’m also grateful for the sleepless nights, mind-breaking philosophy readings, and soul-crushing 3 hour exams, because with them came all-night ‘study sessions’ with friends, an excuse to eat cup ramen thrice a day for a week, and the mental/emotional capacity to carry conversations on Foucault or Sartre,” she added.

Studying at Stanford OHS

Before applying to Stanford OHS as a 9th grader, Olandesca was a Student Administrative Assistant at Little Me Academy (LMA), a family-owned school in Cagayan de Oro.

 “Because I was involved in administrative work and various interests, I needed a learning option with a flexible schedule that didn’t compromise academic rigor,” Kee said. “Stanford OHS fulfilled both of these, plus the vibrance of a diverse student body.”

Kee (2nd from left) with classmates from Little Me Academy

Kee attended Stanford OHS full-time, while continuing to work and study at LMA. She opted for dual enrollment, since it was a “special opportunity to stretch [herself]” and “fully immerse in two different kinds of school cultures.”

“It was tough at first,” Kee admitted. “I had to navigate new online platforms, reach demanding scholastic standards, and manage classes in disparate time zones. But an amazing support system—my family, the school’s staff—kept me on my feet.”

Before the pandemic hit, Kee recalled how OHSers would meet up at Summer@Stanford, and at the end they’d sing: “I’m a better person for the knowing of you.” I can truly say the same for my OHS experience as a whole, and I’m so excited for what lies ahead!

School Achievements

Kee has twice won the Club Leader with Distinction Award, and the Pixel Community Award for “[strengthening] the community” while “maintaining a solid academic record,” at OHS.

Pixel is enjoying a copy of the Stanford OHS Spring Literary Journal, Nectar for Withering Flowers! Made by the Lit Club, the literary journal features poems, prose, and other works by student writers, contributors, and staff, recently ranked Excellent in REALM (Recognizing Excellence in Art & Literary Magazines) Contest by the National Council of Teachers of English.

As the Leader of the Literature Club, she was a Managing Editor of the club-led literary journal. In 2020, the journal was ranked “Excellent” in the Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines (REALM) program by the US National Council of Teachers in English (NCTE).

“Kee stands out for her openness to other students and her attention to her own personal growth. She is kind and friendly with her classmates, interested in their lives, and open to sharing her sense of humor and her personality. She is unafraid to let the work she puts in be seen by others, and her openness and honesty help her build a stronger community wherever she goes,” said Colleen Burson-Ryan, assistant director for college counselling.

Colleen Burson-Ryan

“Kee is also a creative figure who can expertly connect seemingly disparate features into a poetic whole with a depth of specificity that gives new life to old arguments and familiar scenes. It is an understatement to say that Kee has left her mark on OHS,” she added.

Kee was also a Board Chair in Student Government, Co-Founder and Managing Curator of the school’s first online museum, and Head of Communications of the UNICEF Club.

Kee with parents Ram and Ike Olandesca during her recent graduation from Little Me Academy.

At her CDO-based school, Little Me Academy, Kee continued to work in the administration while earning straight A grades, and graduating as Valedictorian on April 24.

Writing and EdTech

During her second year at Stanford OHS, Kee published an original book of poetry entitled Homesick. Her other creative and academic works have been or will be published in Novice Magazine, Anak Sastra, Cathartic Literary Magazine, Paper Crane Journal, the WEIGHT Journal, and De Novo, the highly selective academic journal of Stanford OHS.

She has presented and taught writing at several esteemed venues including Stanford University, the 40th Manila International Book Festival, and the 2019 Global Authors’ Summit.

In her third year, she joined the Educational Technology (EdTech) team of the school’s Competitive Entrepreneurship Club. The team, all composed of first-timers, competed in several international business competitions, and was a Semifinalist for the Diamond Challenge, an Alternate Finalist of the Conrad Challenge, and a Top 100 entry in the Blue Ocean Competition.

When the pandemic forced schools to go into lockdown, Kee developed tech systems for her local school, LMA. She also ran tech orientations and organized free online summer classes for hundreds of students and teachers to aid in the transition to remote learning.

College and Beyond

Before graduating high school, Kee received scholarship offers from several schools in the US and abroad, but eventually decided to enroll in and accept a University Grant from Denison University, an elite private institution in Ohio, USA.

Kee is working on a second book of poetry and is currently the Systems Development Director of Little Me Academy. She is on a gap year and will attend Denison University in August 2022.


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